A passionate tale of deep, mysterious Finland forests and complex moods in the music of Finnish composer Jean Sibelius, ably set in the fire and ice of WW II by historian/first-novelist Trotter (A Frozen Hell: The Russo-Finnish Winter War of 1939-40— not reviewed). Erich Ziegler, a promising young conductor whose career is interrupted by the Nazification of Germany's musical culture, first experiences the war on the frozen tundra near Murmansk. Rescued by his classical background from the front lines, he's drafted into military intelligence and sent to ferret out information from Finnish troops in the guise of a Wehrmacht liaison officer, but a chance sighting of Sibelius en route to his post quickly leads to friendship with the aging recluse. As a member of the composer's inner circle, Erich falls in love with a beautiful, enigmatic woman who is Sibelius's servant but whose forest ties have given her unusual abilities. The couple's relationship is interrupted when Erich allows pride to cloud his judgment during a command orchestra performance for Hitler, committing an act of defiance that lands him on the Russian front. There, he suffers severe shock from the battle conditions and is hospitalized, eventually returning to Finland at Sibelius's request. Although frustrated by the composer's refusal to acknowledge the existence of his long-awaited Eighth Symphony, Erich still prospers as his protÇgÇ; and after barely surviving the all-out Soviet assault on Finnish positions, he returns to the maestro's retreat to be given a solo performance of the work by the composer himself. But brutalized by the war and convinced that the score is about to be destroyed, he betrays both his host and the love of his forest maiden, running away to meet a tragic fate. Excessively melodramatic on occasion, but still a stunning evocation of Finnish landscapes, myth, and music, while the desperate conditions under which war was waged in northern Europe are brought savagely to life.
Read full book review >